Baskin is absolutely oozing with nightmare fuel, but doesn’t earn any of it. The Turkish midnight movie boasts an especially disturbing core concept and an abundance of haunting and grotesque visuals, but the narrative doesn’t support them so what could have been a riotous third act bloodbath winds up feeling entirely unnecessary and miserable to sit through.
Baskin begins with a group of police officers grabbing a bite to eat at a local restaurant before heading out for what they assume will be an uneventful night on patrol. However, then they get word that another squad needs backup at a nearby location, an abandoned building that was once a police station during the Ottoman days. They immediately spot their car, but the cops are nowhere to be found and they soon come to learn why. The building is currently being used for an insanely bloody and sadistic satanic ritual.
Technically, Baskin is a rather impressive film. First time feature director Can Evrenol has a firm handle on the tone and style, and the satanic dungeon is disturbingly rich and detailed, but it’s all for naught because Baskin is gore for the sake of gore and nothing more.
The actors who play the cops all deliver fine, believable performances and share a good deal of natural chemistry with one another but their dinnertime banter doesn’t add much to their characters and also has little to nothing to do with the plot of the film. Plus, most of them come across as insensitive jerks. It’s never made clear what any of them have to fight for, or to live for for that matter, so when they start getting picked off one-by-one, it’s just the excess of blood, gore and violence that makes you squirm. It has absolutely nothing to do with these particular people losing their friends and their own lives, and that completely ruins the experience.
Without proper character development and a connection to the main players, Baskin is just pointless, off-putting gore. The abandoned building is dripping with blood, packed with chained up victims, some deformed and some with missing limbs, and the halls are flooded with eerie moans. The atmosphere is overwhelmingly powerful and the production value is through the roof, but it’s tough to appreciate it because, from a story perspective, you can’t pinpoint the purpose of it. Evrenol does introduce the idea that the youngest cop, Arda (Gorkem Kasal), and his superior/father figure, Remzi (Remzi Pamukcu), are connected to the underworld and are prime candidates to become “passengers” in this ritual, but he never clarifies why or what will come of it.
The highlight of the more brutal portion of the film is Mehmet Cerrahoğlu. He steps in as the master of ceremonies and even though it isn’t quite clear what he’s accomplishing by mutilating his victims, he’s got no trouble commanding the scene, drawing you in with his deep drawl and then spilling blood when you least expect it but in a way that feels disturbingly calculated. The only downside to Cerrahoğlu’s work is that his impressive physical performance makes the less successful creatures and deformed individuals around him feel cartoonish.
Baskin is the classic example of a film that fails because it can’t support its carnage. I’m all for extreme blood and guts, but it needs to have purpose. Not only does Baskin fail to deliver engaging characters and an interesting mythology, but it also has an extremely disappointing, unsatisfying and somewhat insulting copout ending that left me wondering, what was the point in putting myself through that? There’s no good answer to that question so rather than enjoy the lingering unease I left with after the movie wrapped up, I couldn’t cleanse myself of it fast enough.
Click here for all of our TIFF 2015 coverage thus far or peruse links to our reviews below:
- 45 Years
- Black Mass
- The Danish Girl
- Green Room
- I Smile Back
- Kill Your Friends
- The Lobster
- The Martian